How to Make an Accordion Book

If you’re looking for a present for someone who has everything, why not make an accordion book? It’s great for birthdays, baby shower presents, and memorializing beloved pets.

This past summer our family dog, Griffin, died. He was kind of a bad dog–he bit children and old people, barked his head off at every opportunity, and had many disruptive enthusiasms. But people really loved Griffin. He had an especially expressive face (some people said he looked a lot like Rod Stewart) and was very loyal. He was really into sports, like golf and swimming. He hated to see a good time end.  Maybe you have someone in your family like this.

My mom was really close to Griffin, and she took his death hard. To cheer her up, we made this accordion book:

An accordion book is simple to make, but it looks fancy and unusual, and it displays artwork really well. It’s basically a long piece of paper, folded like an accordion, attached to a cover at each end. I learned how to make one at the Center for Book Arts, in New York, which offers classes in bookbinding, letterpress printing, and typography.

You’ll need:

– some matboard (you can usually get this for free at a framing shop, or improvise with stiff cardboard like you find at the back of a pad of paper).

-decorative paper, newspaper, or wrapping paper. It just needs to be fairly thin.

-glue (I prefer the large-size glue sticks for this project).

-as large a sheet of fairly thick white paper as you can find, or several pieces of thick paper. At the art store, you can usually find very large white drawing paper by the sheet for about a dollar.

-a paper cutter is helpful, but not necessary.

1. Make the cover: Cut two pieces of matboard, with your paper cutter or an X-Acto knife, to the same size.

2. Cut two pieces of decorative paper to a slightly larger (by about an inch all around) size. Coat the matboard and paper lightly with glue, then fold the paper around (try to make sharp corners; it’s like wrapping a present).

I like the thin, handmade paper you can get at the art store. I found a paper for my mom’s book that looked a lot like Griffin’s fur:

3. Make the guts: fold your very big piece of paper accordion style, into even folds. Think about the size of the cover; you want each page to be about a half inch shorter than the width of your cover (or you can make it exactly the same size; I usually leave a little room to protect the pages inside). It might take a few practice folds. There are good instructions for folding the paper here.

4. Cut the guts of the book (this is very easy using a paper cutter) to a size that will fit inside your book, also aiming for about a half inch difference. For example, if your cover is five inches tall, you probably want four-and-a-half-inch-tall book pages.

5. If your paper is too short for the book you envision, take two lengths and glue them together, overlapping the ends so that the center page is doubled.

6. Coat the first page of the book with glue, and, centering it carefully, glue the front cover. Repeat for the back side.

7. Fill your book with illustrations, or whatever you like:

We illustrated memorable scenes from Griffin’s life:

Here’s a tip: if you are not great at drawing, write your name and your age prominently on your artwork. It’s disarming.

The great thing about an accordion book is that you have a whole other side (the reverse) to work with. My mom filled the back pages of Griffin’s book with his frequent Country Courier editorials, which were mostly about living life to the fullest:

My mom really loves this book. She displays it proudly on the mantel next to portraits of me and Sky (and Griffin’s ashes):

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One response to “How to Make an Accordion Book

  1. Pingback: Anne Carson Has a New Book Out! « Sing in Me, Muse

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